Motivating Young Voters

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

October 12, 2006

Getting young voters to the polls is a challenge.

"You have to make something hit home," said David Wasserman at the Center for Politics at UVa. "I think there are a lot of issues out there that are hitting home to young people these days."

Recent surveys show the most important issues this election for young voters are education costs, jobs and the economy, and the war in Iraq.

But in 2002, just 22% of 18-24 year-olds voted. Some say young people are simply disenchanted by the whole political process.

"The prevalence of scandal sort of casts a shadow over the process, so it makes it difficult for younger voters to believe that there are politicians out there who can solve problems," said Wasserman.

However, some are getting involved. Downtown at the Webb campaign headquarters, they say young people are stopping in everyday.

"We're seeing a lot of people who are fed up with politics as usual, but who are viewing this midterm election in particular as a chance to speak their mind," said Derek Jones, who works at the headquarters on the downtown mall.

Tight races are also motivating young voters. It seems the closer the race, the more they feel like their vote actually counts.

"I think just to be involved with it really, just to say I did something. Then I can't really complain all that much if something does happen," said Nick McIntosh, a young voter who says he plans to cast his ballot.

Politicians are also using the Internet to get through. Hundreds of candidates have profiles on Facebook and MySpace, where they can generate support through message boards and connect with young people.

It's all in an effort to improve young voter turnout, a demographic that could make a difference come election day.

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